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San Antonio vs. Memphis, Final Score: Spurs furious rally falls short in Memphis, 129-135

Memphis used a devastating scoring outburst in the second quarter to build a lead it nearly relinquished, but ultimately preserved

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant’s acrobatics helped turn back a late Spurs run in his victorious return to the Memphis starting lineup
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

In Ja Morant (shin) and Keldon Johnson’s (hamstring) respective returns to action, it was again Memphis that claimed a 135-129 victory in its brief two-game series with San Antonio by taking charge in transition and 30+ second-chance opportunities in its dominant second and third quarters. It was the ninth straight win by the Grizzlies in the teams’ head-to-head battles.

Just like Monday night, the teams again scorched the nets in the opening half with the Spurs claiming the first quarter to the tune of 37-32. Ja Morant’s brilliance offset the Spurs’ usual balanced approach led by Jakob Poeltl and Jeremy Sochan early success. Memphis turned the tables and blitzed San Antonio with seven threes in the second period to rip away the lead for good. Josh Richardson and Keldon Johnson led a furious rally late in the fourth quarter to pressure the Grizzlies, but it ultimately fell just short.

Poeltl (17 points, 13 rebounds, 6 blocks) and Keldon Johnson (24 points and 4 rebounds, 11-12 free throws) led seven double-figure scorers for San Antonio, and received some of the finest efforts in the season from Zach Collins (14 points and 12 rebounds) and Doug McDermott (15 points and 5 rebounds).

Morant (38 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists), Jaren Jackson, Jr. (21 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks), and Desmond Bane (18 points and 6 rebounds) did the bulk of the damage, while receiving solid support from Tre Jones (16 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals).

Observations

  • Chef’s Kiss #1: A logical and well-stated response to those that believe Pop has lost his fastball.
  • Chef’s Kiss #2: A stellar examination of the numerous not-so-obvious factors that go into rebuilding programs.
  • 63,592 is a LOT of people. Hoping that it’s mostly Spurs fans Friday night!
  • The hard thing about dedicating all defenders to battle Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson, Jr. on their offensive boards, it does limit breakout opportunities.
  • Unwelcome things in life: being on the receiving of a bone-crunching Adams pick.
  • Xavier Tillman looks like Keldon’s bully-ish big brother.
  • Matt Bonner likened Morant to Allen Iverson. Morant seems now more like if someone married Iverson’s motor to Tony Parker’s paint wizardry.
  • Sequence of the Game #1: Late in the shot-clock, Sochan nicely swished an eight-footer in the first and followed it with an impressive slam dunk over Jackson, Jr on the next possession.
  • Sequence of the Game #2: Partway into the third period, Johnson (Keldon) erased a Bane lay-up, and Poeltl put home a pop-a-shot at the other end.
  • Tre Sequence of the Game: Jones (Tre) converted a catch-and-shoot three, stole a pass in transition, dribbled it off of a referee, got hacked by Morant (no-call) on an attempted reverse, and converted an even more difficult and-1.
  • Poeltl (four blocks) and Sochan (two-way awesomeness) outshined their counterparts at the start, while Morant tested the Spurs’ defense freely and often. Sochan’s second paint jumper gave San Antonio a 3-point lead. Back-to-back electric finishes by Jones (Tre) helped his team stay in front. Tillman bullied his way to several easy rebounds and buckets. This happened: Morant clanged a floater over several Spurs and somehow managed to will home a one-handed tip on the follow jump - FLUIDLY. Stanley Johnson had a tipback in his opening moments of action and his stepback three beat the buzzer (to which my wife screamed, ‘HE’S GOOD!!’). The Spurs exited one of their better scoring periods up 37-32.
  • Memphis used three straight turnovers by San Antonio to reclaim the lead quickly in the second, and Bane’s pull-up three capped an 11-0 run with the Spurs’ transition defense lacking again. A Poeltl putback and free throws briefly stemmed the tide, but the a flurry of threes stunned the visitors. Consecutive McBuckets pulled San Antonio within seven, but Bane answered with two makes of his own. Johnson (Keldon) drew a foul and a technical on Dillon Brooks late in the quarter. The final tally of the Grizzlies’ destruction in the frame was 44-25 as they left the half up 14.
  • Two buckets by Johnson (Keldon) and a Poeltl layup kept San Antonio within striking distance. The teams then traded buckets at will for some time with a Bane three giving Memphis a 15-point advantage. Two straight threes by Morant moved the Grizzlies to the century mark with 4+ minutes in the quarter. The teams then traded baskets like a Summer League event and the Spurs went to the fourth down 15.
  • Richardson knocked down two threes to bring San Antonio within 11. Then Zach Collins’ and-1 drew the Spurs within eight. The teams matched their final score from the other night at the 7:15 mark of the fourth. Morant reprised his hawk-like dunk over Poeltl from last year to make it an 11-point game. A conventional and-1 by Johnson (Keldon), after a swipe to his head by Jackson, Jr., did bring the Spurs within five. A Richardson bucket made it a one-possession game with 150 seconds, and Johnson (Keldon) helped forced a shot-clock violation. Adams erased a McDermott attempt on one end, and tipped home a Morant miss at the other to make it 132-127.
  • In the final minute, Jones (Tre) laid the ball in amidst the Memphis bigs to draw San Antonio within four. Morant beat the Spurs defenders to the punch to tip home his miss to salt the game away.

For the Grizzlies fan’s perspective, please visit Grizzly Bear Blues.

The highly-anticipated Back to the Alamodome game takes place on Friday night at 6:30 PM CDT against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.